By Marty Walters
Eight years ago, I first met Francis A. Kennedy. That meeting changed my life.
A guy named Dan gave me Frank’s number during a “green business” function at the Buffalo Museum of Science. I was scouting ideas for possible environmental-themed documentaries.
At that point in my life, I was looking for a new direction. I thought maybe I could revive a passion for documentary production that had waned since a long-ago, one-year appointment at Cornell University.
While 20 years of bartending had poured me through a couple of graduate school programs, it had ruined me for a day job. The availability and desirability of ice skating and beach walking during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. precluded my involvement in a traditional work schedule.
Dan told me that Frank had invented a revolutionary, energy-efficient wall system.
Frank was 84 when he answered his front door that day. Firm handshake. Sturdy build. Sharp as a tack. Friendly behind blue eyes. He invited me into his home-based office, whose door led out to a large and well-kept back lawn.
We engaged in a little small talk. He spoke of his and Jackie’s 13 kids: three girls and 10 boys. My own blessed mother bore 11 kids, two girls and nine boys. Frank and I had an instant connection.
Briefly, Frank spoke of his life experience: an enlisted man in World War II, an officer in Korea, inventor of caller ID.
Inventor of caller ID? Frank pointed to a framed story cut out from the August 1978 edition of Popular Mechanics. The story detailed the Instatrace system that Frank and his partner invented. The system made telephones identify themselves and displayed the caller’s number. As Frank told me, Ma Bell was then the only game in town, and did not want to buy it.
On top of Frank’s desk sat the reason for my visit: one NRG Insulated Block. The basic unit for his revolutionary, energy-efficient wall system was the funkiest-looking concrete block I had ever seen.
The block contained two separate pieces of concrete, which were tied together while separated by a squiggly piece of rigid Styrofoam. Sixty-six pounds of rock, less than a pound of Styrofoam.
Frank told me the concept was as old as cavemen (and women). If you heated rock, it stayed warm. If you cooled rock, it stayed cool. Warm in winter, cool in summer. When you added insulation between the pieces, the insulation kept the energy in the building and prevented Mother Nature’s intrusion.
Frank showed me his New York State Governor’s Award for Energy Excellence, in recognition of his insulated block technology.
As a member of the Greatest Generation, Frank told me that at that point in his life, he was motivated by his desire to make a positive difference for his country and his fellow citizens.
Shortly after that first meeting eight years ago, Frank’s greatest invention became my life’s work.
As we shared driving duties and stories during our travels over the years, I learned much about his wartime experiences. Currently, Frank is our 92-year-old consultant.
Today, I realize how truly blessed we are as a result of the sacrifices made, the love of country and the love of fellow man shown by Frank and his fellow members of the Greatest Generation.
If we could somehow rekindle an honest affection for and deep commitment to our country, our world and our fellow human beings, we would not need a Paris climate accord. Perhaps we can each strive for this of our own accord?